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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, August 10, 2017 1:00 am

SACS seeking input on building future

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

If you go

Southwest Allen County Schools will have a series of community meetings to discuss facility improvements.

The meeting schedule:

• 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at Whispering Meadows Elementary School, 415 Mission Hill Drive

• 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at Lafayette Meadows Elementary School, 11420 Ernst Road

• 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Homestead High School, 4310 Homestead Road

• 2 p.m. Aug. 27 at Deer Ridge Elementary School, 1515 S. Scott Road

• 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at Covington Elementary School, 2430 W. Hamilton Road South

Residents in the Southwest Allen County Schools district can soon provide feedback to help shape the district's future, particularly Homestead High School.

SACS this month will hold five community dialogues facilitated by IPFW to learn what the public wants to see for the next 20 to 30 years in its facilities, maintenance and capital projects plans.

The first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at Whispering Meadows Elementary.

“Public input is critically important to the ongoing success of SACS,” Superintendent Phil Downs said in a statement. “We are a growing district at a point that our facilities' needs are large enough that our community needs to have (a) say (in) how we move forward.”

SACS, which has nine schools serving more than 7,000 students, is facing an unavoidable $40 million in infrastructure improvements, $15 million of which are at Homestead, Downs said at a news conference Wednesday.

This is a launch pad for discussion about whether other upgrades should be done at the same time to save money later, he said. 

“This is the time to look at the high school,” he said.

Noting he is 52, Downs said Homestead is nearly as old as he is and was built for a much smaller student body. According to the Indiana Department of Education's Compass data center, enrollment has steadily grown in the last five years, from 2,260 in 2012-13 to 2,348 in the last academic year.

The cafeteria is landlocked and “a bit small,” hallways are congested, the auditorium and music area haven't been renovated in years and the Senior Experience program doesn't have a dedicated space, Downs said.

“We have outgrown it,” he said.

The work at Homestead could range in scope, he said, such as a total renovation resulting in a state-of-the-art school.

The public meetings will focus on two scenarios identifying the work needed within SACS. Details about what a renovated Homestead might look like will not be available because the district wants to get direction from the community first, Downs said.

The meetings will also include discussions about funding, which include financing within the existing debt service and through a referendum, he said.

Input will be compiled in a report to the school board, which will decide which direction to pursue, he said. He didn't provide a timeline for the decision, only that the report could be available as early as mid-September.

Downs stressed the importance of residents' input, saying district officials have an open mind about the issue.

“This is a community decision,” he said.

asloboda@jg.net